Voting on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health Care

The White House


Tuesday November 8th, we in the United States will elect a new president. It’s been a contentious , bitter campaign and we are all glad it’s almost over. But we should also be glad that we have the privilege of open discussion and disagreement and settling our differences by voting for our leaders. 


I hope you will review my previous post about the presidential candidates’ views and proposals concerning health care.  Here I am repeating a previous post that outlines the U.S. healthcare system.

I believe we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world  because of the people who work in healthcare- the people who devote years to education and training and who work tirelessly 365 days a year, 24 hours a day to make and keep us well.  Their commitment, compassion, dedication and competence benefits all of us and deserves our gratitude.




Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty lifting her torch in New York harbor


Even though the United States does not officially have “socialized” health care, a large proportion of our medical care is funded by the federal government. Even though I know that, I was still surprised by statistics in a recent article, which stated that  the federal government accounts for

40% of healthcare  spending

$1.3 trillion /year

Covering 100 million individuals

Through 4 federal agencies

Department of Health and Human Services 

Department of Defense

Veterans Administration

Department  of Homeland Security

(JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), June 21, 2016)



The  United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 to guarantee basic health insurance to all citizens.  People who oppose the ACA ,aka Obama Care, dislike or even fear government involvement in medical care; they consider it interference, control, or even nationalization of the United States healthcare system.

I think many people, even physicians, don’t realize or forget, how involved the government already is in healthcare. As far back as the American Revolution the fledgling government extended health care benefits to the soldiers and veterans of that war; that system evolved into the current military health care system which covers service members and the Veterans’ Administration system for veterans.

a Veterans Administration clinic
a Veterans Administration clinic (photo by blogger)
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan

This year marked the 50th anniversary of two other government healthcare programs- Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicaid provides insurance coverage for adults and children who are unemployed or low income.  

Medicare covers disabled children and adults  and persons 65 years and older.

The numbers are rather staggering.

  • Together these programs cover at least 30% of Americans.
  • Together they comprise 25% of all federal spending.
  • Together they pay 40% of total U.S. health care spending.

An infographic from the Kaiser Family Foundation and JAMA explains this further.

Disabled children and adults may qualify for Medicare.
Disabled children and adults may qualify for Medicare.
Children may be eligible for Medicaid if their families cannot obtain health insurance for them.
Children may be eligible for Medicaid if their families cannot obtain health insurance for them.

You may not be eligible for either of these programs now, but chances are eventually you or someone close to you will.

  • Anyone can become disabled from a serious illness or freak accident.
  • You or your spouse may lose your job and your employer sponsored health insurance.
  • Your child may have a disability that will prevent them from working when they grow up.
  • We may all live long enough to qualify for Medicare on the basis of age alone.  Your parents or grandparents are near or already at Medicare age.
Senior adults age 65 and older use Medicare.
Senior adults age 65 and older use Medicare.

It’s important to understand how Medicare works, since it’s not automatic; even if you qualify, you need to sign up to be covered (with a few exceptions). The rules are summarized here. Or consider an easy to understand book here. 


Several government agencies regulate, monitor,  promote and/or support  both public and private healthcare including-


Food and Drug Administration- FDA

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- CDC

National Institutes of Health- NIH

Occupational Safety and Health administration-OSHA

Drug Enforcement Agency-DEA


medication capsules
The FDA regulates the development and sale of medications and medical devices and the DEA regulates dangerous and controlled drugs.

Congress has enacted several important laws that  concern health care such as

The Affordable Care Act- ACA

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-HIPPA

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act- EMTALA

Health Information Technology  for Economic and Clinical Health- HITECH

Americans with Disabilities Act-ADA

Family Medical Leave Act-FMLA






air ambulance landing at a hospital
EMTALA requires all hospitals to offer emergency treatment to any patient who arrives, regardless of ability to pay for that care







In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of the United States  created a nation based on the “self-evident truths”  of  “Life ,Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” as well as  to promote “Safety and Happiness” . 

In the Constitution they vowed to “promote the general Welfare” .


I wonder if they envisioned that would eventually include so much effort and money providing and regulating health care, most of which was not available or even imagined at that time? 


Comments welcome and encouraged!


Before you vote, you may want to review this related post.


How your vote may affect your health care next year.
















Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

Please comment or ask a question

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: